Not long ago, GE unveiled its Bluetooth thermometer, which would turn any of the manufacturer’s compatible induction cooktops into miracle sous vide machines. It was then that we also learned about the Paragon Induction Cooktop GE was cooking up.
Aside from being an affordable single-burner induction cooktop and sous vide solution, the Paragon also generated a lot of buzz because of its birthplace—GE’s FirstBuild microfactory. This workshop of wonders is where GE and engineers in the larger appliance manufacturing community could work together and bring ideas from the drawing board to the production line rapidly, albeit on a small scale.
The Paragon’s development is coming along swimmingly, last we checked. So why does FirstBuild have an Indiegogo campaign for it? Surely, a subsidiary of one of the world’s largest appliance manufacturers isn’t hurting for funds.
FirstBuild’s Indiegogo page looks less like a plea for funds and more like an advertisement fishing for preorders. Unlike with many other projects that crowd-fund through Indiegogo or Kickstarter, there’s nothing explaining how funds will be used, why the company needs the money, or what risks and challenges the company is facing in making this product.
So if contributors’ funds aren’t necessarily being used in the production of the Paragon, then they are basically just consumers buying a product. But why would Firstbuild sell its product through Indiegogo rather than its (and, by extension, GE’s) own channels?
The answer may lie on the campaign page itself: “Crowdfunding on Indiegogo gives us the opportunity to validate that a cutting edge group of early adopters wants Paragon before we make hundreds of thousands of them.” FirstBuild has the advantage of rapidly bringing concepts to reality, but that speed comes from skipping things like focus groups and corporate approval. In other words, this Indiegogo campaign is that focus group.
Don’t get us wrong, we think the Paragon Induction Cooktop solves a lot of kitchen problems and will likely be a great product. We were just confused as to why a GE-backed product that was community-sourced also needed to be community-funded.
But now we’re left wondering if we might see other companies use crowd-funding sites to gauge the market’s enthusiasm in a new product. After all, it’s a lot cheaper for a business to put a Kickstarter campaign together than to gather market data firsthand.